Every Sunday, I receive a notification from my phone that informs me of my average screen time for the previous week. It lets me know if it's increased or decreased compared to weeks before, which apps I used most frequently, basically reminding me of the ridiculous amount of my time I spend glued to my phone.
Since quarantine began, I noticed those numbers starting to grow. Slowly at first, as I still had classes to keep me occupied. But the semester eventually came to an end, and I was faced with my first summer since the end of high school that I would be unable to work. And so, my break became one without structure, one lacking a true daily routine to keep me occupied, and those numbers only continued to rise.
I found myself growing increasingly anxious and stressed at the seemingly endless feed of negativity that my social media accounts delivered.
Every day brought more and more until I could no longer bear to look at it.
So last week, I decided I needed to detox. I needed a break from social media. I was going to be spending the week at a friend's lake house in Wisconsin, and I concluded that there was no better time to unplug and reset.
No more Twitter, no more Instagram, no more Facebook — nothing. My only allowance for myself was the Apple News app, so I could quickly see what was going on in the world once in the morning and once at night. (My only justification for this is that I'm a political science major and just couldn't help myself.)
It was a bit difficult at first. The impulse to sign on during stray moments of boredom was stronger than I'd care to admit. But as the week went on and I grew more used to my self-imposed rules, I saw that desire slowly dissipate.
Instead of spending hours thumbing through different feeds, I spent time reading, hiking, boating, enjoying the outdoors, and those around me. Days flew by me, and I felt my stress and anxiety wane away. I felt better than I had in weeks — in months — no longer weighed down by all that had worried me before. There's something so blissful, so freeing, about living in each moment as it's given to you, unworried by every breaking story or trending topic.
Not to say that you shouldn't pay attention to what's going on around you, as it's always important to stay well-informed. But I made the mistake of allowing it to consume me, to become the forefront of all my thoughts.
I came to realize that there is so much time in a day, so much you can do when you aren't wasting eight hours of it online.
So here I am, one week later, reluctant to ever redownload and return to the social media habits that I held before. When I received my weekly report Sunday night after I returned, I felt so happy, so elated, to see the near 70 percent decrease in my daily screen time.
This past week helped me understand the importance of balance when it comes to time online. It's okay in moderation, as many things are. But the problem arises when you let it consume and overwhelm you — when you allow it to comprise so much of your day.
I still have yet to redownload many of the apps I'd deleted. If I'm being honest, I'm not sure that I will. At least for now. I haven't felt this at peace in a long time. So I think I'll stay social-media free for a little while longer.